Mexico: COVID-19 must be considered an occupational disease

published 17 December 2020 updated 18 December 2020

The Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE) has asked the Mexican Ministry of Public Education to ensure that COVID-19 is considered an occupational disease. This is just one measure to facilitate the safe return to presential teaching and learning.

The SNTE has outlined the conditions it deems essential for a safe reopening of schools. On 15 December, Alfonso Cepeda Salas, general secretary of the SNTE, met with the Mexican Education Minister, Esteban Moctezuma Barragán, to demand that:

  • The return to the classrooms must happen “only when the epidemiological traffic light is and remains green”.
  • Teaching and education support staff must be considered a priority group for forthcoming vaccinations.
  • Medical care and medicines must be guaranteed.
  • Workers over 60 years of age, who have diabetes, hypertension, cancer, or lupus, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women, must be exempted from presential education.

COVID-19 prevention methods

Cepeda Salas also warned that, before and during school hours, all schools must be disinfected and be equipped with sufficient drinking water, soap, and ventilation. Schools must also be permanently provided with cleaning products.

He proposed a reduction in the school day and the number of students per group. This would help to maintain a safe distance between learners and between learners and the teacher, taking the space of the classrooms into account. The rotation of students in face-to-face classes must be organised, he said.

The SNTE leader also insisted that parents need to be involved in the detection and handling of possible cases of coronavirus.

He added that SNTE will disseminate the health and hygiene actions promoted by the ministry, particularly the use of face masks, among its members.

Social dialogue is crucial

Cepeda Salas and Moctezuma Barragán concluded the meeting by agreeing that, as the priority is to safeguard the health of the educational community, the ministry and the education union will maintain a close dialogue and collaboration to return to the classroom safely.